A Victoria man hopes a one-of-a-kind Henry Moore sculpture purchased at a Victoria auction will be worth a small fortune.
Last month, Alan Meacham bought a small bronze sculpture (attributed to Moore) from Kilshaw’s Auctioneers for $20,000. Meacham, an independent art dealer for 25 years, believes he got a bargain on the artwork which — in his opinion — might be worth up to $150,000.
He has contacted Sotheby’s, one of the world’s largest art brokerages, to get a revised estimate of the unsigned sculpture’s worth.
Moore, who died in 1986, was a modernist sculptor with an international reputation; his major works sell for millions.
Meacham’s 18.5-centimetre sculpture portrays a stylized armless figure on a bench. It resembles Moore’s Armless Seated Figure Against Wall. A casting of that 1957 piece was sold by Christie’s auction house for $77,675 US in 2003.
Meacham believes his sculpture is more rare than Armless Seated Figure Against Wall because it’s an early version that was cast only once rather than multiple times. His sculpture lacks a background wall found on Armless Seated Figure Against Wall. As well, the bench is different.
Meacham’s sculpture was previously owned by Ian Payne of Victoria, who submitted it to Kilshaw’s.
Ian Payne told the Times Colonist he inherited it from his late father, Bertram Payne, who was the director of the Art Bronze Foundry in London, England.
Bertram Payne is said to have been given the sculpture by Moore. The artist was dissatisfied with his early attempt at creating Armless Seated Figure Against Wall, Meacham said.
“Moore just handed this one over and said: ‘This isn’t quite right,’ ” he added.
Meacham’s sculpture was purchased along with a series of black-and-white photographs showing Bertram Payne at the Art Bronze Foundry. The renowned foundry also cast works by Jacob Epstein, Elizabeth Frink and Anthony Caro.
Kilshaw’s owner, Alison Ross, said there’s no doubt the artwork is by Moore because the provenance supplied by Ian Payne is “impeccable.”
“In the case of this art piece, [Bertram Payne] had brought it home. It was a first casting. Moore wanted to change something to it. He wasn’t happy with the feet. That’s why it was not signed. It was never for sale,” she said.
However, Ross disagrees with Meacham’s assessment of the sculpture’s worth. She maintains $20,000 is a fair price for the piece.
She said it sold for such a price because it’s a small, unsigned work.
As well, it’s an early attempt to create Armless Seated Figure Against Wall.
“It’s not the final version Henry Moore wanted,” Ross said.
A 50-year-old native of Victoria and Sooke, Meacham returned to this city with his family three months ago after living in Bali and Los Angeles. He said he has sold more than 5,000 paintings over his career.
His successes include purchasing an art-deco desk by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann for $200 and selling it for $200,000.
“I’ve had a bunch of scores,” Meacham said. “This could be a big one.”